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Thursday, 8 November 1956

Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- I should like to congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) upon his statement concerning the assistance to Hungary. I do not think it is necessary, however, for Australia, in the emergency situation that has developed, to regard 3,000 as the limit. I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, that 1 think that the attitude of the Ministry this afternoon has been most surprising. We have heard two statements on international affairs. According to reports that we have been receiving from overseas regarding the international situation, the Soviet Union has sent to Great Britain and France a note which must be almost without precedent in diplomatic history, threatening rocket warfare. Yet, there has been absolutely no statement from the Ministry on this matter. That note has been widely interpreted as a blunt threat of war by the Soviet Union. If there were war, it would involve the whole world. Yet this matter has been treated as of no consequence in a discussion in this House devoted entirely to international affairs!

We heard a long statement about a matter in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was personally involved, and in the course of which he attempted to defend himself and his philosophy. Then we had a statement on the Hungarian situation, with constant attempts to separate it from the Suez affair. We were told that the two were not inter-related. I do not know whether they are inter-related, or whether the Soviet Union needed any courage for aggression, but 1 do know that the moral authority of the West to resist the Soviet action in Hungary was weakened by the situation which existed in the Suez area. We have the very greatest reason to be grateful that the United States of America, as the spokesman for the Western world, had clean hands on both issues.

The other aspect of the matter which is disquieting was the obvious lack of information which the Ministry displayed this afternoon. We cannot get confirmation of the report that Saudi Arabia, a vital oilproducing area of the world, has severed diplomatic relations with Great Britain. Then we had statements which, it was quite clear, were treated as insulting by Asian delegates in the gallery, to the effect that the Asian powers were not concerned about Soviet aggression in Hungary. This was, apparently, an apologia for what was taking place in Egypt, although it was known that Mr. Nehru, at a meeting of Unesco. spoke in the strongest terms about the Russian aggression in Hungary, and although Mr. U Nu also had spoken in the strongest terms about it. I understand, too. that Pakistan has been one of the leading powers in the United Nations in advocating action on the Hungarian issue. It is an absolute tragedy that everything that can be dragged in as propaganda for the personal record of Ministers and the Government in the handling of the international situation is dragged in, even if it involves insults, or what can be interpreted as insults, directed at other members of the Commonwealth. Apparently, the United States has taken this rocket threat from the Soviet very seriously, and I understand from the news that there has been an alerting of defence services in that country. I should like to know whether the Ministry regards that incredible note issued by the Soviet Government as serious. If it does regard it as serious, does it intend to alert the defence services of Australia? , If the Government does not regard the incredible note as serious, why is it dismissed without any reference to it on this occasion - apparently our last meeting for approximately five months?

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